The Folding Society

Issue 39 - 7 November 1999


New service for members

In the past we have usually emailed FSN to members in a very basic form - just unformatted text. This ensures that it can be received and read with the most simple email facilities. As readers are probably aware, FSN is actually created with full formatting (headings etc), and it is this version which we load on the web pages. Most readers probably have the necessary facilities to be able to read the formatted version, but there are still some who prefer the unformatted version - either because they don't have a graphic web browser, or because the unformatted version is a bit smaller, and will download onto the computer slightly more quickly. In future, starting with issue 40, we intend to give you a choice. If you want to receive the formatted version, send us an email at, with your name, email address, and a line saying 'Formatted FSN please', or something along those lines. If you don't email us, you will continue to receive FSN in the more basic format. The formatted version will be sent in the form of a file attachment to the email, and will consist of a file such as fsn040.html plus 2 or 3 picture files; to view the formatted text and pictures, simply copy the files into a suitable directory, and then, assuming you have a browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape installed and enabled, double click on the main (fsn040.html in this case) file. Comparing issue 38 in minimal and formatted versions, the size of the text file was 25K unformatted, 29K formatted, so the amount of extra time to download is not great for the text. Picture files are typically a further 30K per picture, and we normally deliberately limit the number of pictures to 1 to 3 per issue. If you would like the formatted version, but without pictures (to save download time), make sure that your email requesting the new format includes an additional line saying something like - 'NO PICTURES PLEASE'.

The fully formatted version of FSN will continue to be available on the web pages, and will be loaded at about the same time it is emailed to members. You can also find all the back numbers on the web pages at

On the web

We have been sent details of a number of new web sites recently, and these have been added to the links section of our web pages - see if you would like to check these out. One of these has the ambitious title "Everything Brompton" - it is part of BikeTrax in Edinburgh. The web page certainly covers the Brompton scene very comprehensively - and under tyres it even mentions the new Schwalbe Marathon, though with no information yet regarding price and availability. "Everything Brompton" is at Also on the web, I see that Phoenix Cycles have completely updated their web site - a great improvement, which you can see at Also from Phoenix come details of the Strutt Meteor - more on this below.

My fortnight's riding

As predicted in the last issue of FSN, the two bikes which have had the most use over the last couple of weeks have been the old Brompton T5 and the Birdy. As I would expect, both handled the normal day to day duties effortlessly, although my knees feel rather creaky this weekend, due, I strongly suspect, to the wide gear spacing of the S-A hub on the Brompton. The Birdy had the additional excitement of towing the Bike Hod to and from Tesco for the first time, which it did as effectively as any of my other bikes which I have used for this purpose. Generally the choice between Birdy and Brompton has been governed by how much paraphernalia I had to carry - the Birdy when this was minimal, the Brompton when there was more to carry. As I expect to get the new Birdy tyres within the next couple of days, I will probably be using the Birdy for the next week or so to give the tyres a good test - it was designated as my fowl (sorry) weather bike for the winter anyway.

Stockport ride Yesterday (Saturday 6th) was the day of the long-established Moulton Bicycle Club Stockport ride. Although it clashed with Mud Dock in Bristol, Stockport got my vote as it is easier, quicker and cheaper to get to Stockport from here, and most importantly this ride always brings back happy memories of riding with that great character the late Hugh Roberts. This year we were exceptionally lucky with the weather, and we were able to enjoy some excellent views. As I was travelling by train, the organisers kindly agreed to me using a folder, and I took the Brompton SP, which stormed up (and down) the hills with great ease, and attracted a lot of interest from the Moultoneers, several of whom admitted that they too owned Bromptons. As the picture (available on the web version of FSN) shows, there was also a standard Brompton on the ride, John Pinkerton having accompanied me there by train with his 9 year old T5 (with a serial number very close to that of my own T5).

Whither Brompton? - speculation on future developments

There has been a good deal of correspondence recently on the Brompton-Talk mailing list regarding the performance of Bromptons, and a perceived (at least by some people) lack of development. I hold no brief for Brompton, I have no inside knowledge of what is going on there, and I'm not paid by them, but I think some further comment is required to put this in perspective - as indeed did a number of the contributors to the discussion on Brompton-Talk.

The above points provide some explanation why we haven't seen radical changes in the design of the Brompton in the past, and why the more enthusiastic cyclists amongst us may still feel that they would like to see 'improvements' in the standard product. However, they don't mean that there is no need for, or will not be, any changes in the future. Some of you may recall me expressing concern over a year ago that there was some danger that the Brompton could become like the Morris Minor was to the old British Motor Corporation. Some of you may also have had the misfortune to have listened to me lecturing at university or in companies about the dangers of complacency in manufacturing (and other) companies in general. Earlier this year we have reported in FSN on both the Cycle and Leisure exhibition at the NEC, at which Brompton were present, and the party held at the new Brompton factory. As a result of both of these events I don't think we need to worry about Brompton's plans for the future. Although no definite statements were made at either event, and as I said earlier I have no inside information, it seems that a number of significant developments can be expected:

I must repeat that this is speculation, not firm facts, and we don't have any dates for any of these potential developments. I don't think we will see anything this year, but I'd be very surprised if at least some of these things didn't happen within the first half of next year. But these are all logical developments of the product, and if you are a prospective Brompton owner, I wouldn't delay buying in case some new features appear later: all of these things seem likely to be able to be fitted to existing bikes, and you would do best to get a Brompton now and start enjoying it as soon as possible! You can uprate tyres etc later if you really want and/or need to. If you are an existing Brompton owner, don't worry, it is unlikely that any improvements will make your bike obsolete, and indeed it is probable that you will be able to retro fit at least some of the potential changes - or perhaps use it as an excuse to add a second (or third!) Brompton to your stable.

I await developments over the next year as eagerly as any of you - not least to see whether my forecasts are accurate!


The Bickerton could be regarded as one of the most significant folders ever developed - it wasn't by any means the first folder, but it was the first really compact one, and its use of aluminium was quite unusual at the time. Quite a lot of Bickertons were sold - for many years it was the only compact, light folder available - and amongst our members, 7.3% own one (more than own a Dahon). Since Bickertons have been out of production for many years, those who wish to keep them going have a real problem in terms of spares, and we occasionally receive an impassioned plea for help in tracing parts. Sadly in the past we have not been able to offer any advice, but this seems likely to change in the near future. Last week we received an email from member Derek Baker, who tells us that he is 

" ..planning to offer a support service for riders of the classic Bickerton bike. I intend to offer Bickertons for sale and will seek to purchase Bickertons dead or alive. unserviceable Bickertons will be salvaged for useable spare parts and sold onto members: all very similar to the service offered by the Moulton club for classic Moultons.  Some time in the spring of next year I will arrange for the first get together for Bickerton fans. Could you ask members if anyone has any printed material on Bickerton such as parts lists, handbook, press cuttings or just about anything on Bickertons. I will copy and return material on loan and refund postage. Bickerton owners can contact me as follows: e mail Tel 01202 692732 or write to me at The Bickerton Rider 10 Upton Way. Broadstone Dorset BH18 9LY"

When Derek gets this up and running, we will carry more news, reports etc via FSN and our web pages, and we hope that it will mean that we will be able to add a Bickerton section to our Special Interest Groups on the web pages. As regards the literature that Derek requests, I myself have an owners manual (for some reason I had two, and retained one when the Bickerton was sold), so I will be sending this on to Derek for copying.

Bike Friday

The latest issue of the paper version of the Bike Friday newsletter "Foldable Flyer" (Volume 7, Number 3, dated Fall 1999) contains details and pictures of the new AirLlama model. Also at the end of the article there is a reference to the suspension fork upgrade available for AirGlides and tandems. This is apparently a factory-only conversion which adds the suspension cartridge, a new fork and new stem, and the upgrade price is $620. Owners are warned that the conversions will be done during the fall and winter months only. 

There is also a reference in this issue of Foldable Flyer to a new tyre in the 451 size (used on the Pocket Rocket and Air Friday) - see below for more on this subject.

The Strutt Meteor

Strutt Meteor Phoenix Cycles ( have sent us details of the Strutt Meteor, with a postcard showing the bike assembled and folded. Those of you reading this issue of FSN on the web will see the picture here - if you are reading the email version, without the picture, you can go to the web site at The main features of the bike are 20 inch wheels (406), a steel (Columbus and Reynolds 531) frame, V-brakes, bottle cage/pannier rack mounts, and it is available in either 8-speed or 21-speed (3 x 7) forms. The folded size is quoted as 107 x 76 x 28 cm, and the time to fold is given as 30 seconds. The picture certainly suggests a fairly simple fold just at the junction of the Y-frame, but quite a bulky package when folded.

Tyres - Birdy, Brompton (and other 16 inch) and Bike Friday

Developments continue of the tyre front. Avon Valley Cyclery ( tell us that they now have stocks of the new Birdy tyre, so we hope to have ours within the next couple of days. As soon as we have had a chance to test them, we will have a report on them, and at that stage we will probably produce our delayed article on tyres.

The new Schwlabe Marathon in 16in size is still eagerly awaited - the best information we have is still that it may reach here by late November. As mentioned above, we strongly suspect that Brompton themselves are investigating sourcing another 16 inch tyre - we will let you know if we hear any more about this.

Not to be left out, Bike Friday include in their latest issue of Foldable Flyer a mention of a new tyre in the 20 inch 451 size (NOT the more common 20 inch 406 size) to suit the Pocket Rocket and some of the Air models. The tyre is referred to as "Custom Designed Bike Friday Sport Tire", and is rated at 110psi, with a quoted price of $18 each ("Buy 2 or more and Save 10%"). The picture shows a white walled narrow tyre with a very light tread pattern, similar to that on Primos or the existing 451 IRC tyre. While it is always good to see more tyre choice, it is quite surprising in a way, as the existing IRC (rated at 100psi) seems  an excellent tyre, very free running and with good life and puncture resistance. We'd be pleased to hear from any members who try these tyres.


As mentioned above, we hope to receive the new tyres within a couple of days, and they will be fitted immediately, so a preliminary test should appear in the next issue of FSN.

A new folder?

A Ferret tells us that a new, and as yet un-named, folder is being developed by the Culty people in Germany. The alleged specification is steel frame, weight of less than 13Kg, 20 inch (406) wheels, 7-speed Sachs hub, price will include lighting, mudguards, carrier, folding pedals, and that price to be about the same as a Brompton T5 (I would suspect that means the price in Germany, which would mean that in the UK it would be more expensive than the T5). The folded size will be larger than a Brompton, but smaller than a Birdy. Rear suspension will be standard, and front suspension optional; the handlebars will be height adjustable. Folding is said to be in two stages - one a quick fold (10 seconds) for a train or car boot, and the second another 10 seconds. Production is reported to be due to start in January 2000. That's all the information we have at present - questions, orders etc should go to Thomas Poreski, email

Winter cycling and Brompton maintenance

By Rob Cope

I'm often accused of having the scruffiest Brompton around (not quite true!), so perhaps this makes me some kind of authority on the subject.

No two ways about it: small-wheel folders attract dirt like magnets. The fact that everything is so much lower down leaves it more exposed to muck, spray and road-dirt than larger-wheeled brethren. I think it's the difference between taking out, say, a Great Dane and a Dachshund on a wet day; they both get mucky but... Aside from anything else, it doesn't take that big a puddle to reach chain or axle height on little wheels.

Fit mudguards (fenders) and mudflaps. Having met the tough, high-quality chainguard fitted to the Tactic, I see these can be useful (much cleaner chains) so long as they don't catch or need constant adjusting. If your folders come indoors (most Bromptons I know of, like working sheepdogs, seem to have infiltrated at least as far as the kitchen) you have a major incentive to keep things clean. Otherwise you and the bike are likely to be thrown back out into wind and rain.

Folders need pretty similar treatment to other bikes: a dry out after heavy rain then (if possible) a quick spin round the block once rain stops to get water out of bearings. I would suggest if possible getting worst of dirt and water off before folding down, otherwise it is easy to fold and forget - till you next need the bike and discover this muddy, rusty mess...

Use a decent lubricant (green-top Finish Line or equivalent) or be prepared to relube (chains especially) every day. WD40 etc is a good water dispersant but contains very little lube. The wax-based White Lightning/Krytox et al stay clean but do not stand up to rain and call for very frequent reapplication. I gather there are more resilient versions reaching the US market, but I have not tried these. Basically the circle remains unsquared: good, reliable lube gets dirty, clean lube doesn't last.

Rear derailleurs are clag havens, as is the Brompton rear tensioner (this last should get a special commendation for muck rehoming). Old toothbrush and elbow grease seem the only solutions. Mechanical chain cleaners such as the Park Tools or Halfords models work quite well, but don't always fit to unconventional transmissions, so check before buying.

More road muck means more puncture risk. One good reason to keep transmission clean is it is then much less unpleasant to dismantle if necessary. Brompton owners in particular will be aware how much fun it is to remove the rear wheel on a dark, wet night. If you're close to civilisation, it's easier to fold up and get a lift home [another advantage of a folder - Ed].

Carry things like a clean(ish) rag and some of those nurses' disposable latex gloves - buy at chemist or scrounge off healthworker friends.

One oft-forgotten advantage is there is less to most small-wheelers, hence less to clean. It can also make it possible to do some repairs over newspaper indoors, rather than in the shed. That depends of course on the tolerance of those you share living space with!

Folding bicycle history - the Bootie

By John Pinkerton

The Bootie made its first appearance in print in CycleTouring October 1965, with a photograph of Hilda and Wilf Corum, described as "well known 'CycleTouring' readers" at the York Rally that year. Hilda's bicycle had white 12 inch balloon tyres. It was then advertised in CT from December 1965 {nice Xmas present} until February 1973.

By a stroke of luck and some detective work (well my great-grand-dad's cousin was Alan Pinkerton, the world famous detective) the machine has been added to The Pinkerton Cycle Collection (1965). Thirty machines from the collection are already on display at the Manchester Velodrome and more to be added. There is a guide, which has wonderful photographs and describes each machine and its part in cycling's social history. The guide is available at the Manchester Velodrome, or you can get a copy from John Pinkerton, 522 Holly Lane, Erdington, B24 9LY priced 2.50 including p&p.

The Bootie will be ridden at one of the Origami Rides from Meriden in the near future, and a full report of that event and the Bootie's performance will appear in a future issue of FSN.

You can find full details of the Bootie in "It's in the Bag!" by John Pinkerton and Tony Hadland, 9.45 from John at the address above. John is now on email - his email address is (note the missing 'o' in the email address is correct, as mwfree requested an 8 character maximum for the address!

Sales and Wants

The S&W list is still quite active - if you have a folder, separable, or accessories to dispose of, or you want to buy, you can use the Sales and Wants page ( If you want to have something put on the list, just email us the details ( - there is no charge, but please let us know when it is sold so that we can take it off the list. 


Malcolm Lyon has written to say that he would like to give away a number of back issues of Bike Culture - numbers 1, 2, 5, 6 and 9 to 16, plus the 96 Encyclopedia. The only reimbursement he expects is the cost of postage. If you are interested, you can contact Malcolm at

Tom Vogt, who organises the San Francisco rides (next ride in the spring - more information nearer the event), emailed us recently, and included this rather fine picture of himself (sorry - if you are reading the email version of FSN, you will need to go to the web pages to see the picture - the URL is Brompton in Paris. He says "the sportcoat is the key! Who says folders can't be stylish!;)."


Saturday 13 November - Origami Ride
The November Origami Ride is expected to be back at its usual location, the Tearooms at Meriden, arrive from 10.30 for an 11.00 start. For more information please see the web pages at, or contact John Pinkerton on 0121 350 0685.

29 November - 3 December - Portmeirion
The very popular autumn Folding Society gathering at Portmeirion will be taking place as usual - this will the fourth year. If you have been before, then you will know what to expect, and I'm sure you will be planning to come again this year. If you haven't been before, please give it a try, it's an ideal spot for an autumn/winter break with lots of good company, and we have had excellent weather every time so far, despite it being quite late in the year. This is a fairly informal event, and the booking of houses at Portmeirion is done by individuals. As explained in a previous issue of FSN, A to B have agreed to act as a clearing house in helping those who have booked houses find people to share them, or those who want to share to find people with space, so contact them if you need help in this respect. It's important that enough people book houses in time, and the place can fill quite quickly, so don't delay in making arrangements. You can contact A to B at

Saturday 4 December 1999 - Mud Dock
It seems to have been agreed to stay with the Mud Dock venue in future, after some suggestions that an alternative might be used. Meet from about 10.30am. For further information contact Gary Lovell, Tel: 0117 932 4633.

Christmas is a coming, and Mr Portly's getting fat ...
Rob Cope is planning another "Mr Portly's Christmas Pudding Ride". We hope to have details, including a date, soon.

10 - 12 March 2000 - Australian Bike Friday Club (ABFC), Bright
For more information on this event, contact Margaret Day, email

June, 2000 -Vondelpark Amsterdam 
Enno Roosink, , has sent the following message about this event in the Netherlands. The party is going to be like a fair with lots of activities and exhibitors of special bicycles, recumbents, folders and the like. Please have a look at  for details. Please help me contact the Moulton Owners Club so we can send an invitation to come and join the party. All participants of our annual Bike Friday Meeting will be attending the Bicycle Party / Fair, to show people what an "Owners Club" means (not very common in the Netherlands for bicycles, maybe the Petersen and or tandem club ). The general idea is to ride mixed with the Moultons and the Bike Fridays. The BF meeting will be stretched over 2 weekends since we do expect some participants from abroad who like to stay for a longer period in the Netherlands ( since they spend a lot of money to come over) and make a holiday out of it. (weekend 1 : 17-18 June weekend 2 : 24 - 25 June) Please could you use your cycling network and do some promotion for me and the ENFB / Velo Mondiale Party! 

CycleFest 2000 - Lancaster, 2nd  8th August 2000
The bi-annual cycling feast will soon be coming around again, and it'll all be up and running from Wednesday 2nd to Tuesday 8th August at St Martins College, Lancaster, UK. Quite a bit has been planned already of course, and as usual there's a theme for the sessions - this year it's "Transmissions", and we already have some great speakers booked for this (Tony Hadland, Florian Schlumfp, Izzi Ureili et al) and some interesting new activities planned (50m sprints, midnight torchlight parade and BBQ etc). However, further ideas are always welcome. There will be announcements in Folding Society News, The Moultoneer and other publications in due course. The Cyclefest web pages are now available (, and will be regularly updated as the event approaches. We hope to have a major folder/separable presence at Cyclefest 2000 - more about this later. If you have any queries concerning CycleFest, contact: John Bradshaw, Tel/Fax: 01524 384474 (day) or Tel: 01524 66658 (eve)

Back Numbers

Back numbers of all issues of Folding Society News are available on our web site - go to for the full list.

Contributing material for FSN

We would very much welcome articles, photographs or any other material for inclusion in future issues of FSN, or on our web pages. Please send any material to The Folding Society at the address given below.

The Folding Society
If you have any news or other information of interest to other members of the Folding Society, please email us at the above address.

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All information given here is provided in good faith, but no responsibility can be taken for errors or for any consequences arising from the publication of this information.

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Copyright (C)1999 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 7 November 1999